Sierra Leone Telegraph: 17 December 2019:
Thousands of Gambians took to the streets yesterday, Monday 16 December 2019 in Banjul, in a peaceful protest calling for president Adama Barrow to honour the agreement he signed with the opposition to step down after three years in office.
President barrow who is understood to be considering staying in power for the full constitutional term of five years, is now under heavy pressure to step down.
Yesterday, the opposition campaign group – delivered a petition to president Barrow. This is what they said:
GAMBIA POLITICO: 3 YEARS PETITION HANDED TO ADAMA BARROW
Our Ref: Petition/16/12/2019
16 December 2019
President Adama Barrow
Office of The President
Banjul, The Gambia
Re: The 3 Years Transition Pledged and The 3 Years Jotna – The Petition
On 14 October 2016, you signed a memorandum of understanding with six political parties and one independent candidate of the Gambia, which set in motion the formation of what later became Coalition 2016. The motivation for such a momentous initiative was spurred by national interest over all party or individual personal interests, at the time, as it was encapsulated in the preface of that agreement, which reads:
“We, the signatories of this memorandum comprising the representatives of the member parties of the Gambia Opposition for Electoral Reform (GOFER), the aspiring Independent Candidate from the Civil Society and the invited participants from Civil Society, putting their differences aside, in pursuance of the supreme National interest, do here agree” …
Thereafter, on 30 October 2016, you were elected, as the flag bearer of the opposition Coalition of that six political parties and one independent candidate, agreeing to adhere to the Coalition’s Memorandum of Understanding, which was published the next day on 1 November 2016 confirming the formation of Coalition 2016, grounded on the following principal terms. These were that:
i. the elected flag-bearer of the Coalition would contest the 2016 election, as an independent candidate for the Coalition with no allegiance to any one political party of the coalition;
ii. the flag-bearer, once elected as President, shall head a transitional government for 3 years, as President;
iii. the flag-bearer, once elected as President, shall organize and supervise presidential election, at the end of the 3 years term, which he will not participate as a candidate until after the first term of his successor.
Your excellency, in countenance to that MOU Agreement or acquiescence to the same, on 3 November 2016 you wrote a letter of resignation to the United Democratic Party (UDP) – the party you belonged at the time and was representing – to confirm your resignation from that party, in adherence to the terms of the Coalition MOU. As a result, you became the Coalition Flag Bearer for the Presidential election of 2016.
You further confirmed your countenance to the Coalition MOU in your subsequent Manifesto document for 2016 presidential election, in which you pledged:
“………, I (Adama Barrow) have offered myself as an Independent Candidate who will serve for only three years at the head of a broad based and inclusive Coalition Government aimed at conducting Constitutional, institutional and administrative reforms that would establish the foundation of a democratic system of administration that would put an end to the culture of impunity and self-perpetuating rule and usher in an era for Gambians to enjoy liberty and prosperity under a system of government that is sensitive and responsive to the needs and aspirations of its citizenry.”
This was further reiterated in your political campaign posters, which were inscribed with the same pledge that:
“Adama Barrow does not aim to be a President for life but is committed to serve as a transitional President for 3 years to consolidate democracy and create a level playing field for parties to contest elections.”
In addition, you and your Coalition 2016 campaign entourage toured the length and breadth of the Gambia, reaffirming that pledge to serve 3 years transitional government, after which you will hold presidential election, which you will not be a candidate, and will graciously hand-over power to whoever is voted – by the Gambian people – as your successor. You promised this was necessary to create a level playing field for the foundation of a genuine democracy in the Gambia, in which – at the outset – was not aided or influenced by the advantages of incumbency of the incumbent president.
Your excellency, we the supporters of that 2016 presidential election Manifesto and Campaign Pledge, and the principals of your Coalition 2016 Agreement, at the behest of whom your Coalition partners, who entered into that agreement with you were acting for – as supporters and members of their various political parties namely: UDP, PDOIS, GMC, NCP, PPP, and GPDP; we seize this opportunity to remind you of the terms of that agreement you entered into with us.
We wish to emphasise to you the significances of the terms of that agreement to our national interest, which – as we noted above – will help our country to establish a genuine democracy, founded on a presidential election, that was unfettered by the advantages of incumbency.
Your excellency, the Gambian people desires for such a democratic foundation in the Gambia, which you agreed, promised and pledged to deliver for them after 3 years. That 3 years has now dawn on us without any signs of your willingness to commit yourself to the full implementation of that agreement, promise and pledge to us.
Thus, your excellency, as concerned citizens and supporters of the Coalition MOU, we have now mobilised ourselves under the brand name of ‘3 Years Jotna’ (which translates to mean: “it’s now 3 years”), dedicating our course to the implementation of that agreement entered between you and our political party representatives.
Thus, we send you this petition, as members and supporters of that course, to remind you that, it is now 3 years, which marks the end of your transitional government, as agreed and affirmed by the Coalition MOU 2016 and affirmed by your Campaign Manifesto of 2016.
Your excellency, we now demand an announcement from you to the Gambian people before the 19 January 2020, as to when you intend to hold the Presidential elections agreed, in which you will not be a participant and will remain impartial without favour for any candidate of that election and will hand-over power honourably and graciously to whoever emerges as the victor of that election.
Your excellency, we refuse to accept that you have already made such a decision to negate on our agreement, affirmed by your 2016 Manifesto and Campaign Pledges. And for the sake of our country and its prosperity, we hope you have not. For the Gambian people will not batter their future for yours or any other President. Thus, it is important that you take time to ponder on that announcement very carefully.
Your excellency, whilst pondering on that announcement, we crave your indulgence to factor in the following significances of the 3 years transition to the Coalition Agreement 2016. Without which, we assert, there would have been no Coalition of opposition parties in 2016. And without the Coalition Agreement of 2016, there would have been no victory against Yahya Jammeh, and you would have never been the President of the Gambia.
This was confirmed by Honourable Halifa Sallah, a prominent member of the Coalition 2016, who served as the spokesperson of the Coalition, and current member of Parliament, explained the significance of the 3 years stipulation in the Coalition agreement in a press conference of 16 August 2019, in which he stated:
“That is why we said the person who will be there will be there for 3 years, why? It is because it endears the person to the electorate after 22 years of self-perpetuating rule of the Second Republic and 30 years of self-perpetuating rule of the First Republic. This would have been a ‘nenemajo’. That is the reason. It endeared the country to its people and to the world – that was the reason. The whole objective of saying that the person will not contest in the next election is to eradicate incumbency. Everywhere in this world, incumbency is the first way of rigging elections because it puts you at an advantage. So we said let us get rid of advantage, let us get rid of incumbency – the person will not stand in the next coming elections. To move further, we said the person will not support any party in the next election to ensure that there is real democracy where there is level ground for multi-party contest.”
Thus, it is conspicuous enough that your pledge to serve a transitional government of 3 years was aimed to influence Gambian voters, which is reflected in their votes for you, as the Coalition 2016 presidential candidate. In contrast, both of your opposing contestants: Yahya Jammeh and Mama Kandeh, campaigned for 5 years term and both lost, however your campaign for 3 years resonated with the people, which resulted in your victory.
Thus, your excellency, any negation from fulfilling the Coalition 2016 agreement, would amount to treachery and fraud, which would not be done against just your Coalition partners, but that of the many Gambians, who voted for you on 1 December 2016. The consequences of such infidelity will not only impugn your legacy, but will further perturbed the integrities of your coalition partners, and the Coalition 2016 model, which could serve as a paragon for many countries and generations to emulate and emancipate themselves from the shackles of dictatorships and tyrannical rules.
Your excellency, you said you are a man of grace, honour and sincerity! For our sake, we hope you are indeed of these qualities; for our country and our people cannot afford to be led or headed by another leader of debased and depraved qualities. And your qualities in the eyes of the people will be judged by your fidelity to your promises, pledges and agreements. It may not matter to you, but as decent people, it matters a great deal to the Gambian people, to be led by a leader who has honour, grace and sincerity.
Your excellency, of recent you have cited the constitution, as the supreme law of our land, which is agreed by all sound and sundry Gambians! And all shall endeavour to do their utmost to adhere to the dictates of that constitution. However, we wish to assure you that there is nothing in the constitution that prohibits you from fulfilling your 2016 agreement with us. Our agreement was designed in contemplation of the constitution extant, which accommodated the possibility of a President resigning at any time of the elected term of 5 years.
The constitution never envisages or dictates that a sitting President cannot resign during the elected term of 5 years. For the 5 years elected term provided in the constitution merely refers to the maximum term an elected President can serve in office, but did not command the President to serve the whole of that term in office.
Thus, it was never the intention of our constitutional framers neither the Gambian people, who voted for the same in 1997 – to become their supreme law – to place any compulsory obligation on you or any other President to serve the whole of that 5 years term in office. We submit that that simply could not have been attributed to the intentions behind the 1997 constitution. For, if such is their intended command, the framers of our constitution would not have catered or accommodated the possibilities of the President’s death, infirmity, impeachment, and resignations.
Since their command would have been for the President not to die whilst in office, or suffer infirmity or be impeachable or be able to resign during the five years of the elected term of office. We therefore submit that, your excellency that the 2016 MOU agreement for you to serve 3 years transitional term in office was in total alignment with our constitution and honouring the same causes no breaches to our constitution.
This was further corroborated by Honourable Halifa Sallah in the same press conference of 16 August 2019 that:
“Section 65 of the Constitution provides for the resignation of the President so it is wrong to say that the Coalition partners did not know the Constitution, otherwise they would not have said three years. It provides for a vacancy in the Office of the President through resignation or death of the president. If the Constitution says 5 years and you die before the 5 years, will you still remain to be the president? A constitution must provide for resignation, it must provide for death, it must provide for vacancy and it does and we realise that. That is why we said the person who will be there will be there for 3 years, ….”
Your excellency, we have been told many a times that you have already taken a decision to renege or show infidelity to our Coalition 2016 MOU agreement. We hope you will take time to reflect and ponder over that decision and its consequences and implications: on your personal legacy, that of the Coalition 2016 members, and that of the Gambian people.
We remind you, your excellency, as you were once reminded by Sheriff Kijera – vice chairman of the Gambia’s Centre for Victims of Human Rights Violations, at the inauguration ceremony of the TRRC on 15 October 2018 – that there is life after Presidency. We elaborate further that that life after presidency can be full of grace or disgrace, depending on the choices or decisions you take and the timing of those choices or decisions.
We wish to remind you that the most regrettable choices or decisions taken by leaders of the past, were mostly inspired by their aspirations to perpetuate rather than to relinquish power at the right opportunity. One clear example is your predecessor, Yahya Jammeh, whose decision to renege on his acceptance of the election results of 1st December 2016, led to his disgraceful exit and exiling to Equatorial Guinea.
Your excellency, the right opportunity for you to make that right decision about your future and that of your country, is at the end of the 3 years, which has now dawn on us. Any attempts to perpetuate would tarnish the much-cherished legacy you crave for and further spell bad omen for the Gambia, the country you claimed to have loved dearly. For the Gambia has since independence been led by leaders who hanker to perpetuate than to relinquish.
Your excellency, if you made the wrong decision at this right moment, you will be known among many of our leaders gone and yet to come, as the worst betrayer, who betrayed his own published agreement with the Gambian people. You will jeopardise the much-cherished treasure of our nation, which is peace. Though, the Gambians will go to any length to protect that peace, but be reminded that peace is not the absence of tension but the presence of justice. And it is not just for you to defraud our people in the manner that is as treacherous, as promising to serve 3 years, only to extend that to 5 years through the backdoor.
Your excellency, if you negate on the 3 years transition agreed, pledged and promised, you will lose the trust and confidence of the Gambian people and will lack credibility of our people, which will attract defiance from the people for the rest of whatever days you usurp power, as a result of the treachery and deceit of your apostacy to our agreement.
Your excellency, on 1 December 2016, the Gambian people voted for change and that change had inspired our citizens to take responsibility of their future and to sacrifice, just like the national martyrs of Solo Sandeng and Solo Kuruma, in order to hold our leaders accountable for their actions, statements and deeds. This is a responsibility, we the citizens take very seriously, in order to prevent our country from returning to dictatorship or self-perpetuation.
Thus, your excellency, today, 16 December 2019, thousands of Gambians have converged on the Banjul High Way, between Sting Corner Junction and Denton Bridge to show their support for the Coalition 2016 Agreement with you and admonish you to adhere to that Coalition 2016 Agreement. The same numbers or even more after the success of this event intend to march to State House on 19 January 2019, and will not adhere to any police permit restrictions to manifest their grievances against your breach of the Coalition 2016 Agreement.
Unless you act as petitioned in this letter, which is for you to announce before the 19 January 2020, the date you will be holding presidential elections, as envisaged in the Coalition Agreement of 2016, in which you will not be a participant and will hand over power to your successor. We demand that this presidential election be staged before or on the 9 September 2020 but not later than that date.
We understand that this will require changes to our current constitution at Section 46, which states that:
“46. There shall be an election for the office of the President in the three months before the expiration of the term of the incumbent President. The dates for the nomination of candidates and for holding the election shall be determined by the Independent. Electoral Commission.”
Thus, we further demand before the 18 of February 2020, an amendment bill for Section 46 of the Constitution be tabled before the National Assembly, where we believe there will be sufficient support for that amendment, in order that the amended bill will read as follows:
“46. There shall be an election for the office of the President in the three months before the expiration of the term of the incumbent President; or three months after any date the office of the President becomes vacant – due to: death, impeachment, infirmity or resignation of the incumbent President; or three months after an incumbent President has written to the Speaker of Parliament and IEC Chairman requesting for such an election to be held. The dates for the nomination of candidates and for holding the election shall be determined by the Independent. Electoral Commission.”
We believe such an amendment to our current constitution, which is long overdue, will enable you to fully implement the noble ambitions of our Coalition 2016 Agreement. Any negation to the above, your excellency, will have dire consequences for our country and our future.
We thus hope, for the sake of our much cherished national treasure of peace and stability of the Gambia, you will see sense and do the honourable thing and make plans for a peaceful and impartial presidential elections to take place before the 9 of September 2020; which you will not participate and will be an impartial arbiter for the sake of our country’s future and the a successful conclusion to our Gambian story of defeating tyranny through the ballot boxes and replacing it with a successful democratic transition, that enjoyed freedom, rule of law and respect for fundamental freedoms, capped by impartial democratic presidential elections akin to none.
Your excellency, that will be the beautiful ending of our 2016 success story, and any other ending will be ugly and undeserving of the Gambian people.
We look forward to your response to our demands by the 10th January 2020, if we receive no positive response from you by that date, we shall assume that you have resolved to proceed with your treachery to usurp power through the backdoor. This will leave us with no choice than call on every patriotic and reasonable Gambians to take to the streets on 19 January 2019 demanding for your resignation.
We look forward to your response.
On behalf of all in support of the 2016 Coalition MOU CHAIRMAN, 3 YEARS JOTNA
Cc: Gambia Press Union Members, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Gambia Political Leaders, International Organizations in the Gambia, CSOs, etc…